Persona 2: Eternal Punishment Review

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Title: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Developer: Atlus
Game Type: PSP
Download: 440 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support: Yes

There are many different franchises that you can play a lot of on the PlayStation Vita.  If you think about it, the inclusion of PSP and PS1 games has made the Vita a power-house for those franchises.  Final Fantasy and Metal Gear are two of those franchises, offering a very large chunk of their series playable on Sony’s little handheld.  There are more franchises than that, though.  A recent franchise we’ve vowed to review all of the Vita games for, Persona.

Persona is a unique franchise in that it used to be a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei games as well as the fact that it’s changed a lot, over the years.  As we said in our previous Persona review, the series’ second game actually got two completely different games for it.  Instead of viewing Persona 3 as the third game in the Persona main franchise, it is actually the fourth, as Persona 2 spans two different games.

As we dive further into the series, we’re going to take a look back at a PS1 Classic.  Although this game got a PSP remake in Japan, it never saw the light of day, due to “unusual circumstances”, according to Atllus.  Way back from the PlayStation Era, here is our official review of “Part 2” of the Persona 2 adventures, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment!

Story

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The story of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment takes place in an alternate reality to Innocent Sin.  The game does take place after the events of the first game, but the setting is actual an alternate reality/dimension to that of Innocent Sin.  Despite this, the game is still a direct sequel to the first game is still considered canon, as you learn as you play through the game.

The plot revolves around Maya Amano (one of the playable characters from Innocent Sin) as she is thrown into world-shaking plots when rumors start coming to life and there is an entity known as The Joker going around and murdering innocent people from what is called the “Joker Curse”.  After being granted the power of Persona, she and other characters, new and old, go on an adventure to put a stop to the rumors as well as The Joker, himself.

The story in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment can be very confusing if you haven’t played the first game.  Within the first 5 hours, we had seen the majority of the main characters from the first game as well as going through flashbacks of Innocent Sin and sequences that were near-mirrored from that game.  Many believe it is an alternate version of the same game, but it is very much a sequel and should not be played before Innocent Sin.

Gameplay

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Like Innocent Sin, this game is a dungeon crawler RPG.  You will have several areas of a city-like world map to explore, which is identical to the one from Innocent Sin.  From the locations and NPCs, virtually everything and everyone you will see, outside of major scenes and a few new locations, are the same you saw in Innocent Sin.  As such, various facilities and locations will function as dungeons to fight enemies as well as fighting bosses to progress the story.  The game also supports the Rumor System from Innocent Sin, allowing you to spread rumors to create side-quests.

Progressing through the game will have to do with paying attention to scenes and traveling to various locations.  In many parts of the game, you’ll be given hints on where to go and will have to go there to learn your next objective and continue until you hit the next dungeon and start fighting more demons.  The dungeons, themselves, are set up in a third-person fashion, and many of the dungeons are the same dungeons you visited in Innocent Sin.

The battle system has its ups and downs.  You still progress through turns and can summon Personas to use skills.  Even the Fusion Spell of setting up spells in order to combine your forces and do high damage to demons returns in this game.  However, the system runs slower than in Innocent Sin.  The animations are longer and the intro and outro to each battle takes more time.

The contact system returns as well.  Unlike Innocent Sin, each character doesn’t have a selection of speech to use when contacting Demons, but you combine characters, instead.  For example, you can combine Maya and Ulala to use the “Radiant Women Unite!” discussion, or just use Maya to interview them.  You still work on getting them to their various caps of each emotion to be able to gather Tarot Cards to summon new Personas or to create Pacts with them to receive items and money.

The biggest difference is that there are more enemies with different personalities.  So, the same options don’t always work, even in the same dungeon.  The other addition to the Contact System is the fact that you can learn new types of speech by performing dialogue-based side-quests around the city in the game.  You’re not directed towards these and will only get them if you just go around, talking to everyone, or know what to do.

This brings up the difficulty of this game.  Unlike Innocent Sin, this game is not kind to casual gamers.  Possibly one of the toughest PS1 RPGs I’ve played, you will be grinding a lot in Eternal Punishment.  At an early point of the game, I had to stop and grind for new Personas and levels for quite a while and still barely got through one of the boss fights of the game.  The encounter rate is also much higher than in Innocent Sin, forcing you into more fights as you progress through dungeons.  Do not expect Eternal Punishment to be kind to you, as it is a very difficult RPG.

Along with the difficulty, this game has a fair amount of length to it.  From start to finish, you will be using up a good 40+ hours to finish the story of Eternal Punishment.  This is assuming you don’t go out of your way for side-quests and just try to clear the game’s lengthy story.  It is definitely longer than Innocent Sin and will take a large amount of time out of your gaming schedule to complete.

Controls

Controls are the first thing that will prove an annoyance in this game.  While Persona 2: Innocent Sin that’s available for the Vita is a PSP game, Eternal Punishment is a PS1 game.  As such, a lot is different.  Controlling your character is the same, but a few of the other buttons have been swapped around.  You can redirect these with the Emulator Options when hold down the PlayStation Button, though.

Controlling your character is done with the D-Pad (and Left Analog Stick if you enable Analog Controls).  Like Innocent Sin, the X button is used to control and option in the menu or battle and the Circle button is used to cancel an option.  The L and R triggers are used for moving the camera as well as the L2/R2 controls that are assigned to the Rear Touch Panel.  This is where it starts to become an annoyance.  It’s very easy to graze your finger on the Rear Touch Panel and have the camera moving itself.  It’s best to disable these controls.

The other difference is that the Triangle and Square button are switched.  Instead of pulling up the Menu, the Triangle Button now loads the Map.  As such, the Square Button now opens the menu instead of opening the map.  Since this is a PS1 game, you can swap these controls to feel more comfortable with how Innocent Sin plays.  However, leaving it is nothing less than frustrating.

Presentation

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The presentation of the game is another part that pulls it down due to the fact that this is a PS1 game.  Visually, the game looks identical to Innocent Sin, with the artwork and environments not as polished.  The sprites and environments are full of little jagged edges and inconsistencies that make the game look dated.  Innocent Sin didn’t look especially beautiful, graphically, but Eternal Punishment looks a bit worse.

Another thing worth noting is the presentation/translation.  There are a lot of different things that are abbreviated.  From the Tarot Cards to locations around the map, you can get really confused when you try to find your objective.  You may not think Dt actually means Department for the officer department.  You can adjust to it but it’s very frustrating to adjust to.

The other downside to Eternal Punishment is the fact that it has slowdown and lag during the Fusion Spell animations.  We only encountered this during Fusion Spells and specific other Skills.  When you launch these, though, the frame-rate easily halves during those animations.  This makes battles seem to drag out longer and is an annoyance that can hamper the experience.  It can be adjusted to, but feels sluggish.

Summary

Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is: Decent.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is every bit a solid Persona game as Innocent Sin was.  On the downside, the game is drastically harder than the first game and has some major translation, graphical and lag issues.  If you’re a fan of the first two games and are a patient gamer, it’s worth a play.

6/10

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